Cosmic Man and the Languages of Being
Sometimes I think of the old days before blogging, when my only outlet for expressing these ideas was to yack -- you know, to corner some poor soul and talk their ear off. A lot of interesting stuff came out of that, but it's completely unrecoverable. Maybe it's buried somewhere in the Akashic Record under the monologues of Arsenio Hall, but that's about it. I wish someone had been following me around with a tape recorder.
This one was originally called This is Your Cosmos Speaking: Are You Listening? As always, I've taken the opportunity to tweak things here and there.
Eternity drew close disguised as Love
And laid its hand upon the body of Time --Sri Aurobindo
Balthasar observes that “the method of each science is the correct one when that science allows itself to be determined and molded by its object.” Our “point of departure” in knowing anything about anything must be “to accept the given as it gives itself, and to allow it its existence as such, in its own truth, goodness and beauty...”
Different aspects of reality “give themselves” in different ways. This is why materialistic science is so easy compared to, say, psychology or theology. In fact, because promiscuous objects give it up so easily, many modern thinkers seize this low-hanging fruit and simply ignore the more problematic domains of soul and Spirit -- even though one of the most obvious ways Spirit gives of itself is in our inclination and capacity to know the truth and beauty that inheres in mere objects.
Now, I’m not saying I succeeded, but my book was an attempt to allow the entire cosmos to “speak its truth” to one of its members. That would be me. But how does the cosmos speak? What is its language?
As far as I can tell, the cosmos speaks -- or reveals itself -- in four principle languages: Matter, Life, Mind, and Spirit. These differing modes are not so much “messages” from the cosmos as the direct imparting of reality itself. Each of them impresses itself upon us in a different manner (and simultaneously resonates with a different part of ourselves), and it is important not to confuse the epistemological methods appropriate to each mode of cosmic expression. A mind is not a rock, although Nancy Pelosi comes close.
Each of these domains has an objective and a subjective mode. For example, matter expresses itself objectively through the abstract equations of subatomic physics. But it also radiates subjective messages through its metaphysically transparent beauty. Take a look at some of these outstanding works by the Old Master Painter (HT Assistant Village Idiot), and you will understand the phrase “metaphysical transparency.” Are you able to receive and assimilate the gratuitously truthful beauty of these images as it is given to you?
“Fully to understand beauty... is to pass beyond the appearance and to follow the internal vibration back to its roots; the aesthetic experience, when it is directed aright, has its source in symbolism and not in idolatry.... Perceived beauty is not only the messenger of a celestial and divine archetype, it is also, for that very reason, the outward projection of a universal quality immanent in us, and quite obviously more real than our empirical and imperfect ego gropingly seeking its identity.... Beauty stems from the Divine Love, this Love being the will to deploy itself and to give itself, to realize itself in ‘another’; thus it is that ‘God created the world by love’” (Schuon).
He traversed scenes of an immortal joy
And gazed into abysms of beauty and bliss
Below him lay like gleaming jeweled thoughts
Across the vibrant secrecies of Space --Sri Aurobindo
The cosmos also speaks in a language called Life. Here again, Life as such reveals itself both objectively and subjectively. Objectively it reveals itself through the intricate language of DNA. But it also reveals itself more forcefully and directly in a way that vastly exceeds our ability to grasp it. In fact, this is one of the problems that arises as we move up the chain of being, for these realities are like “an inexhaustible light that can never be drunk up” (Balthasar). “This ‘more’... cannot be grasped, although at the same time I must say that it truly does give itself to me and does not withdraw from me.”
If Life could speak, what would it say? Forget science. For all language -- let alone the language of DNA -- is ultimately none other than the Voice of Life, no matter how you high or lo go. What poet has ever been able to exhaust the dynamic radiance of Life as it reveals its miraculous splendor to us? Could we ever “possess” or contain Life, or can we only be witnesses to its fulsome and flowing mystery? Can Life ever be shorn of this mystery and captured in any manmade system? Can it ever be reduced to a static genome subjugated by reason?
Er, no. Life is nothing if it is not a continuous rebellion against the heavy and burdensome weight of material existence, a "venturesome leap of spirit into space" (Sri Aurobindo) joyfully met by lonely matter "calling out for love at crying time" (Sri Crenshaw).
There is something about man that draws away from Life and tries to contain it -- to drain it of its “holy and manifest mystery”: “We have reached a situation in which nothing ‘gives’ itself any longer or ‘opens up’ to us from within, a situation in which nothing ‘hands itself over’ on its own initiative, and in which, therefore, thought is no longer devoted to the deepening interior source of a thing; in such a situation no opening of horizons... remains possible” (Balthasar). (I think the radical environmental movement is a ham-handed attempt to recapture this sacred mystery, which is why it is paganism by another name.)
Knowledge of any kind is only possible because Being, in its generosity, manifests its truth in advance of our even being here. No self-enclosed, post hoc mental system of man can ever be true philosophy, much less theology. To “think” in the Raccoon way is to be be a lover of Sophia -- which is to live at the eternal horizon of our being, where life pours forth from its hidden vertical source. This is true philosophy, a “love-filled longing that propels man man down his questing path...”
Desire her greatly and she will preserve you; encompass her, and she will exalt you; honor her, that she may embrace you. -- Prov 4:6-8
Speaking of which, how do we conform ourselves to -- or comprehend -- the object called “man,” when man is the subject who conforms himself to the truth that is anterior to him?
Man is the ultimate symbol of the cosmos. The literal meaning of symbol is to "throw together" or across, as if to join together two disparate things to reveal their inner unity. What does the symbol man symbolize? He is, as Josef Pieper writes, “at the core, someone becoming... not simply made as this or that, not a purely static entity but an unfolding being, a dynamic reality -- just as the cosmos is in its totality."
Only man -- and the cosmos coursing through him -- is a becoming of what he is through time, a journey from what “we are not yet to what we already are,” from the potential of the mirror to the fulfillment of the image. We have a word for man, but we must never forget that man is not man in the way that matter is matter, for only man has the task and vocation of becoming what he is.
Perhaps this is the greatest divide between secular materialists and religious realists, for the latter regard man’s life as an irreducible ought grounded in transcendence, instead of a mere is rooted in dead matter. Man is the only thing that ought, which immediately takes him out of the realm of both is and of mere things. For to do as you ought is to both transcend and to find yourself.
But what ought we do or be or know or become?
Spirituality is the science of what we already are. And what we are is an arrow shot from the stream of time into the heart of eternity. Or is it the reverse?
It is both. For “man is true to himself only when he is stretching forth -- in hope -- toward a fulfillment that cannot be reached in his bodily existence” (Pieper).
The universe is an order that is so to speak architectural, deployed from the Supreme Principle by way of intermediaries, or of hierarchies of intermediaries, down to earthly creatures....
The Universal Spirit is the divine Intelligence incarnate in Existence; it is like the reflection of the divine Sun in the cosmic Substance: God projects Himself, so to speak, into that “void” or “nothingness” which is the plane of the creature.... This Spirit is thus the divine Intellect immanent in the Cosmos, of which It constitutes the center and the heart; It penetrates as by innumerable arteries of light into all realms -- or into all microcosms -- of the manifested Universe; it is thus that God is present at the center of everything. --F. Schuon